Alex Bradley–Hot Lunch

The What: Molly’s screen name sums up her feelings about everything and everyone: blarg. She has no use for the other students at her alternative school, Sunshine Day, and especially not for the blond and eerily normal Cassie. When she’s paired with Cassie for a group assignment, Molly resists working with her, and things escalate. They get so bad, in fact, that there is food flung. Much food, flung muchly. Since Cassie and Molly’s food antics take place in the school cafeteria and drive the lunch lady to resign, they are expected to take over the cafeteria food. Their only means of escape? Getting the student body to vote their food better than the lunch lady’s for five days in a row.

The Good: One of my teens insisted that I read this book. I dragged my feet. I groaned. The premise sounded dull and shallow, and I have little reading time as it is. Did I really want to spend it on a high school food fight? Turns out, I did. Hot Lunch is much, much more than the story of two girls forced to work together. It’s about mending friendships that seem forever broken. It’s about learning to recognize and dismantle our reflexive defenses against others. It’s about figuring out what integrity is by living without it and deciding to change. It’s about appreciating other people as they are, and doing the same for yourself, without giving up the hope of improvement. And it’s funny as hell while it’s at it.

The Meh: Dude, I feel like I say this in every review, but more showing, less telling! We find out so much of what really happened, and who really did it, in a few lines of dialogue long after the events–the pacing of revelations was clunky. Also, characters sort of drift in and out of the story, making it hard to figure out who’s important enough to keep track of and who’s not.

Hand It To: Fans of “Schooled,” Nancy Pearl’s setting readers, fans of quirky humor

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